Oil on Oil

WILLISTON — Joe Burns began his journey to paint still life portraits of the Bakken and at the the James Memorial Art Center, the oil painter from Minnesota will be showcasing his work, “Canvassing the Bakken Oilfields: Oil on Oil”. 

Burns is the first painter to document the historical transformation of the once-quieted landscape of the Bakken oil fields. 

“This is our gold rush and it is happening right now,” Burns said.

Burns explained he has always been interested in life-changing events that occurred in the United States, such as the building of the Hoover Dam and the California gold rush. He explains he would’ve enjoyed painting those historic events, had he been around, and thanks to the Bakken oil boom, now he has the chance to. 

Burns went into art right after high school and worked as a commercial artist. Soon, he began to want to paint. His wife, Kris,  graciously encouraged him to go back to school. Burns attended the Atelier Art Institute in Minneapolis, but this art school wasn’t just school, it was also a  job. 

“I went to school for four years from 9 a.m to 4 p.m., painting and drawing all day. I was taught discipline,” said Burns. 

In the last year and a half, Burns has spent a little over a month documenting the Bakken oilfields, and the many shapes it continues to take. 

“I think anytime that the landscape is changing, it is nice to be documented,” said Burns. 

Burns began to explain how the oil field has changed with an example from when he was painting an oil pump located behind an old school house. All he heard was traffic, whereas before the boom there was nothing but nature ringing noiselessly in your ears. 

“There are so many people to thank with all of the connections. The people (of Williston) are also generous and showed me around town, and took me out on the rigs,” Burns said. “It made my job very pleasurable”

Living in a fast-changing environment, Burns took on the role of documenting all the changes occurring in the Bakken. And now, Burns would like to share with the public his latest effort.

For more information please visit joetburns.com


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